Dave, yes, it was indeed dark. Likely very dark. I had assumed you knew this. Here’s the almanac data:
Sun and Moon Data for One Day
U.S. naval Observatory
Astronomical Applications Department
The following information is provided for Hill City, Aitkin County, Minnesota (longitude W93.6, latitude N47.0):
18 January 2003 Central Standard Time
Begin civil twilight 7:20 a.m.
Sunrise 7:54 a.m.
Sun transit 12:25 p.m.
Sunset 4:57 p.m.
End civil twilight 5:31 p.m.
Moonrise 3:58 p.m. on preceding day
Moon transit 12:18 a.m.
Moonset 8:30 a.m.
Moonrise 5:08 p.m.
Moonset 9:09 a.m. on following day
Full Moon on 18 January 2003 at 4:48 a.m. Central Standard Time.
At the time of the accident, the moon was 13 degrees above the Northwest horizon, according to Roger Freedman, our resident astronomer. Moonlight would have been minimal at that angle, especially since there was a cloud deck above. Morning twilight was still almost an hour away. Rural area.
While we know something about the weather conditions and degree of darkness, we do not know what happened at this early juncture. It could be that they were on top and something else caused the accident. Maybe radar data will help us learn more.
What we do know is that five kids are without a father, which is just incredibly sad and tragic. [:(]